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[CW] Hold on to me
Senior Member

266 Posts
11 Threads

Age: 15 (4 November 1879)
Occupation: Fisherman's daughter
Registered: Sep 2019

#1
[solo thread, side story, continued from here: https://bywitandwhitby.rpginitiative.com...61#pid6561]
 
[Content warnings: reference to child abuse, teenage pregnancy]
 
 
When Anne arrived at the station, she was sweating and panting. She took a moment to catch her breath, but then ran through the building and on to the platform, where a train was waiting for the steam locomotive to change from the rear to the front. Most people had boarded already, though some were still saying goodbyes.
 
“Alice! Alice!” Anne shouted out, running along the platform and looking for her sister. Alice was not there. Anne stopped at the end of the train and rested her hands on her knees, closing her eyes and catching her breath once more. She was used to long days of labor and she was strong, but she never did much running, and her corset made her feel out of breath easily.
 
Anne finally rose again, turned, and slowly walked back past the train, looking inside through the windows. Suddenly she caught sight of her sister in one of the third class compartments. The girl sat by the window, pale and miserable, her checked shawl wrapped around her shoulders. She seemed hardly aware of her surroundings, until she spotted Anne. Alice sat up, frightened, and shook her head wildly. But Anne ran to the door and hurried in. “Alice!” she shouted, pushing her way past a man without even apologizing. “Alice!” she shouted again, when she had reached the compartment. A woman sitting opposite of Alice looked up disapprovingly. “Alice! Have you lost your mind! This is not t’ solution!” The woman cleared her throat
 
“Anne, get off the train! It’s about to depart!” her sister hissed. She was trembling and her hands clutched her shawl so tight that her knuckles were white. “I’m so sorry, but I have to go. Father… everyone… I can’t bear to face ‘em, Anne! I have no life here!”
 
The woman cleared her throat again, but Anne gave her a ‘shut up of die’ glare, before turning back to her sister. “You’ll break father’s heart.”
 
“I’ll do that either way. Oh, Anne. If you knew the full story, you’d want me gone too. It’s better for everyone!” The woman got up and left them with a final angry stare that was entirely ignored. “Now get off the train,” said Alice, “before it departs.”
 
“Not without you! It ain’t better!”
 
“Anne, plea-,”
 
“You’ll break my heart as well!”
 
Her sister looked at her, mouth slightly open, and tears welling up in her eyes. Her lip began to quiver. “Oh Anne… Don’t say that…” she said weakly
 
“It’s true! I’ll die from missing you, and from worrying sick about you!” It wasn’t a lie. The thought of sleeping alone in the bed at night, without the comforting warmth of her sister beside her, a sister of whom she wouldn’t know whether she was alive, or safe, or even where she was… How could she survive that? “Where will you even go!?”
 
“It don’t matter, Anne! Away from here! I don’t want to leave you, but I have to!”
 
“We’ll find a solution…”
 
“I’m a few months along, Anne! I can’t hide it any longer! If father…” she gasped and her whole body seemed to shake. “He’ll beat me to death…” She put her face in her hands and began to cry.
 
“Don’t say that!” There was the sound of a whistle outside, but Anne sat beside her crying sister and pulled her into an embrace. “He’d never do no real harm.” But a terrifying series of memories forced their way into her mind. She pushed them away. “He’d be disappointed and angry maybe, but he loves you. He wants you to be alright.” Yet she felt sick with anxiety at the mere thought of putting herself in her sister’s shoes and having to tell father. Her sister sobbed.
 
There was another whistle.
 
Alice suddenly sat up. “Anne! Go!”
 
“I won’t!” Anne said, though she was panicking.
 
“Go!”
 
“Not without you!”
 
A loud, long whistle. And then there was no choice. The train began to move. The noise of the wheels being set in motion and picking up the pace drowned out all other sounds for a minute or so.
 
Silently, Anne watched as the abbey grew smaller and then disappeared along with the rest of town, when they turned a corner. She had never traveled further than Sandsend, three miles out of Whitby, and she had never traveled out of town in this direction. Already everything looked unfamiliar. She turned to her sister. The two girls stared at each other in silent horror. Alice’s hand found Anne’s and they both held on tight.
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Senior Member

266 Posts
11 Threads

Age: 15 (4 November 1879)
Occupation: Fisherman's daughter
Registered: Sep 2019

#2
They sat in silence, hands clasped tight, watching the landscape pass by under a heavy cloud of black smoke. The train followed the river Esk for a while, lost it, and then joined it again occasionally. They passed little hamlets between green, rolling hills. The train had stopped at Sleights, and Alice had told her younger sister to get off and walk back to Whitby, but Anne had refused. They stopped at Grosmont, but this time neither of the girls spoke. They just stared out of the window into the unfamiliar landscape, still holding hands. Anne felt small and insignificant as she realized how vast the world was that lay ahead of them, and how little of it she knew – something she had never had to reflect on before.

Suddenly the door of their compartment opened. “Tickets please.” A short man in uniform with a thick black moustache held out his hand. The girls looked at each other and then at the man.

“We…” Alice started. She was blushing. “I’m so sorry, ser. We were in such a rush, we forgot to buy a ticket.”

“That’s alright, dearie. I can sell ye one now.” The ticket inspector said. “Where are you going?”

Alice and Anne exchanged anxious glances once more.

“Actually, ser…” Anne said in a small voice, heart beating in her throat. She felt the hand that was holding Alice’s become sweaty. She had never done anything criminal before in her life, and here she was, about to be caught in her first crime. “We ‘ave no money on us. Oh, please have mercy on us, ser. We were desperate,” she begged.

The man looked from one sister to another, leaned against the doorway, and sighed. “Alright, listen. We’re about to arrive at Goathland. If you alight here, I won’t turn ye in. But don’t try to get back on, or ye will be in trouble. We don’t do charity.”


Goathland was a tiny station, with two platforms connected by a bridge. There was a waiting room on the platform they stepped out on. A hill rose immediately behind the platform, a steep, narrow, sandy path leading up to the heathland above. On the other platform there was a little shop with a tearoom. A thin old man walked up and down the platform, watching the people who had alighted. His eye fell on the two girls. Anne felt Alice take her hand once more and pull. She let her sister lead her over the bridge and out of the station. The girls looked around. In front of them, the road led uphill and into the village. To the left, there was a bridge over a beck, which Anne believed had to be the Esk in its early stage.

“I’m thirsty,” she told her sister.

The girls descended to the little river and scooped up water to their mouth. Alice shook her hands dry and climbed back up to the road, but Anne stared out over the water for a moment. She took a dry leave and gently placed it on the water, watching it float downstream. Probably nobody would see it once it reached Whitby. Perhaps it would already be pushed under water by that time. But it would pass through Whitby nonetheless. A last connection to what was familiar. A last wave home, in case she wouldn’t return.

She climbed back onto the road, and the girls quietly walked into the village. Along the road, there were a few rows of small cottages. When they came to a bent in the road, they could see that the rest of the village consisted of a few larger houses and a church. They looked at each other, and then started for the church for temporary shelter. When they slipped in, Anne was relieved to find that there was no one there to chase them away or ask questions.

They sat down in the pews in the back, silent for some time. Slowly the realization dawned on Anne that she was miles away from home, in a place she didn’t know, and that she and her sister had nowhere to go.

“Alice…” she began, but her sister interrupted:

“Anne. This is wrong. I can’t drag you into this. Ye must take t’ train back. If they catch ye and want to hand ye over to t’ authorities, ye must ask for Elijah and he’ll explain the situation.”

“I’m not leavin’ without ye, Alice.” Anne whispered. She thought for a moment. “Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll both go back and tell Elijah what’s goin’ on. He can talk to father for us. Prepare him. We’ll wait until t’ worst is over and he’s calmed down a bit, and we then go home.”

But Alice suddenly bent over, put her face in her hands, and whimpered. Anne felt her heart aching with pity. She put a hand on her sister’s back. “Ye ain’t got no choice, Alice,” she said softly. “We’re in t’ middle of nowhere. We don’t know anyone here. We can’t stay here.”

“But I can’t go back either.”

“The father of the child -,”

“Noah Longbottom…” Alice cried.

Anne was aghast. “That twit!?” But she remembered that her sister’s poor choice in men – boys – was irrelevant at the moment, and that she didn’t want to make her feel worse. She shook her head. “Talk to him. If he promises to marry you, and you can arrange it before ye speak to father -,”

“Oh Anne.” Alice sat up and looked at her through her tears, utterly defeated. “I went straight to him when I realized I was pregnant, but he says its not ‘is, and he act like he doesn’t know me.”

“Lucky I ain’t in Whitby.” Anne muttered beneath her breath.

Alice wiped her tears, but a new flood came. “I’ve gone against everything father and mother ever taught us,” she whimpered. “And now we won’t even be able to cover it up… Father… The shame he’ll feel. An’ after Simon… What will people say of us?”

Anne bit her lip. There was a hard truth she had no choice but to deliver: “I’m afraid that can’t be avoided now, Alice.” she said as gently as she could. Alice gasped and Anne wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

“I have to get to a bigger city… They…. They’ll know I was on me way to York now… But I could go to Middlesbrough instead.”

“How will you even earn a livin’?”

Alice stared ahead. Her lip trembled, but her face was hard. “There are places… for women like me.”

That shocked Anne so that she withdrew her arm. “No.”

“Go home, Anne. There ain’t now’t you can do for me now.”

“Talk to Elijah.” Anne said again.

Alice breathed in sharply and looked at her sister. “I’m not only pregnant, Anne!” she snapped. “I’ve done other, terrible things. I… I took the money. I stole from me own family, Anne, from all of you. And I’m so ashamed, but I’ve done it not just once but twice! I’ve visited a…” She seemed to struggle saying the word, “a brothel. Looking for advice on how to….” She gasped for air, rubbed her face with her hands, and then whispered: “I tried to kill t’ bairn, Anne. That’s… murder, isn’t it? Attempted murder. Won’t Elijah have to arrest me like he did with Simon? And even if he didn’t, how would I face father, or any of you after all these crimes?”

Anne looked at her sister as if she was a stranger. She sat frozen still, processing all this information. But then she shook her head and grabbed her Alice’s hands. “You were terrified, Alice.”

“Anne. Please just leave me be. You can go home, and live your life, happily.”

Anne thought of her brothers, who would not have their sisters to look after them. Poor Bram, whom she hadn’t even apologized to. She thought of her poor old father, who would worry sick about them. Of poor Rose and Maggie, who would fear for their little sisters. Of Elijah, who would blame himself for losing them.

But then she thought of Alice, in a big city, scrambling for a living for her and her baby through degrading means, all alone, with not a soul to take care of her. Who was on her side in all of this?

She squeezed her sister’s hands. “Where you go, I go.”

“I can’t do that to ye, Anne. Ye ain’t done owt to deserve it.”

Anne shook her head. “I ain’t done owt to deserve losin’ you. We’ll travel to Middlesbrough together. That should be… northwest across the moors, shouldn’t it? We could rest for the night when we find a farm, slip into the stable. The animals will keep us warm. And once we’re there, I can find work. Honest work. And I’m sure we’ll find ye a job in a factory or somewhere where they won’t ask questions.”

“Anne…”

“We’ll look after each other.”

Alice bit her lip, wept silently, but finally nodded.

They sat in silence once more, gathering courage for their journey.

“Are you ready?” Alice finally said weakly.

“Let’s pray first.” Anne proposed, and she knelt down.

Alice looked around. “You ain’t even Anglican.”

“If God can hear me by me bedside, I’m sure ‘e can hear me in an Anglican church. Won’t ye pray, Alice?”

Her sister scoffed. “Ain’t no point in me prayin’ now. I might vex ‘im and make it worse.”

“Father says God is full of mercy and we should never fear praying to ‘im, whatever we’ve done.” But as she heard herself speak, a rebellious part of Anne wondered: if father said they shouldn’t fear approaching God, whatever they had done, why should they fear going home? She frowned as she observed her own painful disloyalty.

But then Alice knelt beside her and folded her hands, and Anne closed her eyes and prayed.

After a little while, they rose and left the church. Once outside they looked around. Although there was a strong, cold wind, it was sunny and so they managed to orient themselves somewhat, debating between themselves on where the exact north-west lay. They settled for something in the middle and set out onto the moors.
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Senior Member

266 Posts
11 Threads

Age: 15 (4 November 1879)
Occupation: Fisherman's daughter
Registered: Sep 2019

#3
The two girls moved across the vast expanse, clutching their shawls to protect themselves from the wind. It was not too cold for a mid-winter’s day, and at first their walk was relatively pleasant, passing through rolling green hills and woodland. The air was so much fresher here than in Whitby, filled with smells of earth and plants and winter. Birds soared up from the fields in song. Occasionally a rabbit shot out of a bush nearby and sped away, while the girls pointed and watched. As they came up from out of a valley and entered a large patch of heathland, they stopped for a moment and turned, to take in the view. The land spread out in every direction: endless hills with grass and heath, broken up by the occasional wood. The low mid-winter sun and clouds covered the hills and valleys under a patchwork of magnificent light and shadows. Both girls breathed in deeply and watched, mesmerized by the splendor of the world they had seen so little of, and daunted by the vastness of it. In the distance they could see a moving trail of black smoke where a train was crossing the moors.

“Do you think they’re in there, comin’ after us?” Alice asked.

“They’ve probably not yet realized we’ve left Whitby. And even so, they won’t expect us to have gotten off at Goathland.” Anne reassured her. “They won’t find us. Not until we are in Middlesbrough, and we contact them.” She looked at her sister. “When we’re independent.”

Alice gave her a small nod and started walking again. Yet Anne felt a wave of guilt wash over her as she thought of poor Elijah searching all over Whitby for them, probably growing more desperate by the hour, and of poor father, who would go through agonizing terror when they wouldn’t return home night after night. What if it would kill him? But she took a deep breath. She had made up her mind to stick with Alice, and with that thought in mind, she turned and followed her sister.

The initial ease and pleasantness of the walk soon wore off. Whenever they crossed heathland, they were slowed down by the necessity of having to search for a natural path, which often led them more north or more west than they wanted. When they decided to cross the moors straight, they found that their skirts would get tangled in the heather plants, and Alice ripped the rim of hers; and the heavy steps they were forced to take, made it just as time-consuming and more exhausting than having to look for a path. They began to feel tired and hungry. Neither of the girls had had time to eat their breakfast that morning. Every ascent became heavier, and with every descent they struggled more to keep their trembling legs beneath them. Anne noticed how Alice was starting to look pale and her breathing became heavier. Her steps became more unsteady, and at one point, she slipped and nearly sprained her ankle.

“Let’s rest for a moment.” Anne suggested. She wished she had food on her. She would gladly give her own share to her sister to strengthen her. She now understood why poor Alice had seemed weak and sickly and hungrier than usual as of late.

“T’ ground is wet. We can’t sit ‘ere.” Alice said, and she struggled on stubbornly. Anne sighed and followed her.

Soon they met a river and were forced to follow it a mile or two up north, until they found a makeshift bridge consisting of two tree trunks. It met a little path through the fields on the other side, which they followed, until it bent north, and they left it to continue straight through another patch of heathland. On and on they toiled, breathing heavily, and forced to stop every so often to untangle their dresses.

“There’s a road there, Alice!” Anne suddenly exclaimed. She pointed at the sandy road in the distance, winding between fields and patches of moorland.

It took longer to reach it than they had hoped, but once they were on it, the walking was easier, and even though the road did not quite take them north-west, they followed it without discussion, tired as they were.

And then at last there was a farmhouse along the road: a brick, two-story building with small white paneled windows. Its yard was surrounded by a low wall. Just beside the door stood two baskets with eggs and apples. The girls stretched their necks to get a better view of the windows, but when they saw nobody within, they slipped into the yard and quickly grabbed an egg, cracked the top and sucked out its content. They were so hungry that they did not even consider taking the food to a saver location before eating. Instead, they dropped the empty shells and took another egg. Neither of them had ever stolen as much as a sweet, or a pencil from school before. But they were on the run and had already traveled on a train illegally, and they had walked miles on an empty stomach. And so all the strong morals their parents had taught them, and the sense of dignity and fear of hell instilled in them, seemed distant and irrelevant. When they exchanged glances, they did not look fearful or ashamed, but they were grinning with delight, for getting a whole egg was a rare treat at home.

Alice had just helped herself to her third, when they heard rushed footsteps coming from within the house. Alice dropped the egg, and ran, but Anne snatched a few apples, before she chased after her sister.

A woman came running out of the house carrying a wooden stick. “Why ye little thiefs! Get back here!”

But the girls darted out of the yard, crossed the road, and ran into the opposite field as fast as they could. After a while they stopped and looked back.

The woman had stopped on the road, but was waving the cane at them. “Leave! And stay away!” she shouted. “Or I’ll send t’ dog after ye.” The girls turned and ran on.

They ran until they were far enough to feel safe, and then they sank down in the field, no longer caring that it made their dressed muddy. Anne looked at her sister. Alice was no longer pale, but had a red blush on her cheeks from running. Some strands of her copper hair had come loose. She looked at her younger sister, mouth half open and eyes wide as if still recovering from the shock. Suddenly Anne grinned at her, took the apples from her pocket and held them up. Alice gasped and then began to laugh. Anne began to laugh as well. And soon they were laughing and resting and enjoying apples that tasted all the better for being stolen.

In the end, they were forced to continue their walk, for it was too cold to sit on the ground for long and they knew they would have to find shelter for the night long before it got dark. More strands of Alice’s hair were falling down from her bun, and suddenly the girl reached up and untied it. Immediately her hair flew free in the wind. Anne gasped, but Alice merely grinned at her. Then suddenly, Anne took her long red braid and untangled in, laughing.

“Who is here to see!” Her sister shouted in encouragement. Anne threw up her arms and began to run, her long hair waving around her head. Alice ran after her. There was something liberating about doing such forbidden things as running away and stealing food and untying your hair and running around like you were half-wild. “We’re moorland children now, Alice! Like in t’ stories!”

The girls finally stopped running, panting and grinning at each other and giggling. Anne felt a strange rush of excitement where there should probably be fear. But how could she be afraid and worry over the pain she was causing to her loved ones, when there was this delicious new sense of freedom and agency?

“I’m loosening my corset!” She suddenly stated. “Help me!” She turned around.

Alice hesitated and looked around, but finally reached under her sister’s clothes to loosen it. Admittedly, Anne felt a little unsure of her movements without the garment to support her. Yet at the same time she felt stronger.

Suddenly, Alice turned around. “Help me with mine.” Anne grinned devilishly and helped her sister. “Ugh, ye have no idea how I’ve been sufferin’ tryin to hide me stomach while the bairn grew,” Alice complained while her sister loosened the garment. She took a cloth out from under her corset, which she had apparently wrapped around her waist to make the swelling of her lower tummy less obvious.

Everything made so much more sense now. Anne had been wondering why Alice had been growing bigger around the middle while her face still seemed pale and thin and worn. Equally, she had wondered why her sister had not wanted to sleep against her anymore at night to share warmth. But now that she could see the vague outline of a bump, it all made sense.

“Can I… feel it?” Anne asked.

Alice took her sister’s hand and placed it on her stomach.

“It hasn’t quickened yet. I don’t know. I haven’t felt it yet,” she explained.

“How long?”

“About four months.”

“It will be a moorland child like us!” Anne said with a grin.

“It will be a Middlesbrough child, hopefully.”

Anne wrapped her shawl tighter around her body and began to walk again. She didn’t feel fear anymore. She felt courageous. The heroine of her own story. The arbiter of her own destiny. They were free.

It had to be a strange sight indeed, a scene from a folk tale almost: two fishing girls in the middle of the moors, their red hair dancing in the wind, walking freely side by side, apparently without a care in the world.

They did not see the fog that was rolling in from the sea, approaching fast.
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Senior Member

266 Posts
11 Threads

Age: 15 (4 November 1879)
Occupation: Fisherman's daughter
Registered: Sep 2019

#4
For a brief moment, Anne had regained her energy and she walked with confident strides, once again enjoying the wild and unfamiliar beauty around them and the thrilling sense of owning her life for the first time. Alice too seemed revived. Anne had tied her scarf over her head, so that her loose hair was covered now, and she had tightened her corset a little, for her back craved the support, but she still felt free as a bird and courageous in a way that she never had before.

But as they toiled on and on, their spirits began to sink again. A vast, grey layer of clouds had covered the sky, so that they could no longer see or feel the low winter sun. Without its rays colouring the moors, the land seemed bleak and hostile. Anne was trembling with cold, fatigue and hunger. The eggs and apples had proven scarce nourishment for their circumstances. Alice did not complain, but she looked grim, and Anne knew that the past months had weakened her sister, and that she was suffering more than herself.

“Wait!” Alice suddenly shouted and Anne turned to look at her. They had stopped several times throughout the day because Alice needed to relieve herself. But this time, the girl merely rested her hands on her knees, breathing heavily. Her arms seemed to tremble. After a few deep breaths, she looked up at Anne. “I think we should rather go back, Anne,” she said breathlessly. “We’ll be more likely to find another farm along t’ road.”

Anne peered into the distance, but she could see neither the farm house nor the road anymore. They had come a long way and were at a higher section of heathland. She dreaded the idea of having to walk back after all this toil. She did not know what lay ahead, but she knew it was a long way back. “We can’t go back there. They’ll set their dogs on us.”

“We can join the road elsewhere. But we’ll never find owt if we’re trapped here after dark. We’ll be forced to stay out.”

“We still have some time. I’m sure there will be another road soon.” And she turned and began to walk again.

“Anne!” Alice shouted behind her, but Anne walked on stubbornly, to show that she would not argue any further, and when she looked back at last, her sister was following quietly, her expression grim.

Yet after a while, Anne became aware of how ribbons of mist were filling the valleys, light mist at first, but thicker later. Slowly, it crawled up to where they were, until they were engulfed by it, and their view of the landscape around them became unclear.

“Such fog,” Alice commented in a small voice, and Anne felt irritated.

“Let’s hurry,” she muttered, and though her legs were heavy, she picked up the pace. They definitely had to find a road now.

“Anne, not so fast!” Alice shouted. Anne turned, trying not to look desperate, for her sister’s sake. Alice, on the other hand, looked absolutely spent. Her face was gaunt and her breathing heavy. She stopped walking and rested her hands on her knees once again. “One moment, please,” she gasped.

“Just try! Come on!”

“I don’t think I can go much further, Anne…”

“Yes, you can.” And without a second glance, Anne turned and began to walk again, clenching her teeth. There was no choice. They had to find that road she had promised. She heard Alice stumble after her, and she marched on, without looking back.

And still the fog was thickening, and where she had been able to make out the next slope before, she could hardly see a few yards ahead now. Anne struggled to suppress her ever more desperate fears.

And then Alice voiced them: “We’ll never find a farm like this.”

Anne spun on her heel. “Shut up!” she snapped, spitting the words at Alice with such fierceness that she felt ashamed the moment they came out of her mouth. Alice looked at her shocked. Then Anne burst into tears.

Alice’s expression softened, and she walked over and wrapped her arms around her little sister. “It’s okay…” she whispered.

“Oh dear Alice, I am sorry,” Anne cried.

“No, Anne, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have whined like that.”

But Anne shook her head and hid her face in her sister’s shoulder. “It’s all my fault. We should have gone back. Like ye said. But I was too stubborn. And we’ll never find owt in this fog, and it’s all my fault. Oh, forgive me.”

Alice tightened the hug and then she stepped back and held her sister’s shoulders. “It’s not too late, my dear. We can follow the same way back. If we can at least reach t’ road, surely someone will pass by, and they can help us. We’re going to be alright.”

Anne nodded quietly, sniffing and wiping her tears.

And off they went, no longer running away, but rather trying to be found – desperate to be found. As they walked, Anne tried to feel brave again. But her feet were sore, and the fog was so ominous that she could only despair. She thought of their room at home, how warm and comfortable it seemed now, with her sister by her side, both of them huddled under the blanket, and how comforting the knowledge that father and her brothers were in the other room. What if they would never see home again? She felt the sting of fresh tears in her eyes and quickly wiped her face, before her sister would turn and see.

They seemed to walk on endlessly, though for how long and how far was impossible to tell. Was the fog becoming thicker? Or was it getting dark? Anne had lost all sense of time, and with the sun not visible, all she could tell was that their vision was getting ever worse. The white all around them was turning to grey. She no longer cared about her dress getting entangled in the sturdy heather plants and just gave it a fierce pull whenever it happened, ripping the rim. All that mattered was getting back to the road. Shouldn’t they have reached it already? She dared not ask.

Suddenly her foot got caught behind a branch and she fell forward, landing hard on the cold ground with her arms stretched in front of her, a heather plant scratching her face. For a moment, she considered giving up and having a good cry. But instead, she pressed her lips together, balled her fists, and scrambled up to her feet, just as Alice reached her to help her up. They had to keep going. They had to be found.

“I’m sure we’re almost there,” Alice encouraged.

Anne just nodded, and began to walk again, as if she had never needed the encouragement in the first place. She heard Alice catch up and her sister took her hand. They walked side by side, holding on to each other for courage. It was indeed getting darker. There were noises around them that were strange and unfamiliar. Howling. Screeching. The rustling of things moving in the bushes as they passed. Had they been there before? They now barely saw the outlines of the ground before them.

And then they saw nothing. The sun had gone down.

“Alice…” Anne gasped, squeezing her sister’s hand. She looked around, but all was dark.

“It’s alright, Anne.” Alice said in a small voice. “I’m sure we’re nearly at t’ road.” But she could hear in her sister’s voice that she knew what Anne knew: They should have met that road long ago.
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266 Posts
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Age: 15 (4 November 1879)
Occupation: Fisherman's daughter
Registered: Sep 2019

#5
They walked on slowly, clinging on to each other for dear life, but they were forced to let go at last, for it became too difficult to walk side by side in the dark. Anne walked behind her sister, endlessly it seemed. She soon lost track of time and couldn’t tell whether they had walked under this darkness for minutes or hours. But she knew that they had covered only a short distance. They could only move slowly, testing every step for obstacles.

At some point, they decided to rest a little. The girls sat down, even though the ground was hard and cold. They were so tired and their feet so sore, that they preferred it over standing. Anne could feel her legs tingle as she stretched them out in front of her. There were painful spots on her feet, where she knew blisters had formed and maybe burst. For a while, her sore body cherished the rest, but when Alice’s hand found hers, Anne noticed how cold it was, colder than her own. That shook her out of her merciful drowsiness.

“Alice, we have to keep moving,” she said, alarmed.

“I know…” came her sister’s desperate voice.

On they went. Anne clenched her teeth and tried not to think of how tired and cold she was and how every step made her want to cry, of how dark it was, and how they had no idea where they were going, of how there was no one to help them for miles around. She tried not to think of all this. But she failed. Anne had never known that darkness could be so dark. There was street lighting in Whitby, and even in her yard, which didn’t have any, it was never fully dark, with dim light coming from the street and cottages. But this darkness was absolute. It was terrifying. It invaded her thoughts until she was certain they would never see light again. They were going to die. She panicked:

“We can’t see owt. We don’t even know if we’re goin’ straight!” The girl crouched down and covered her face with her hands, drawing fast, sharp breaths, unable to steady herself.

She felt Alice kneel by her side and take her in her arms. “Shhhhh… Calm yourself. We’ll be okay.” Her sister rocked her, until Anne had calmed a little. Alice helped her up. “Come, we have to keep going. Listen to my steps. One foot after the other, alright? I’m right here, my dear.”

Anne nodded, but she realized her sister couldn’t see it. “Alright,” she whispered in a shaky voice.

They began to move again. Anne tried so hard to be brave, but all she could think of was how small and fragile they were in this wild and frightening no man’s land, and she wondered now what madness had come over them in the first place, to flee home. Anne no longer cared even if father would be livid. She wished they were at home, and she could beg for his comforting embrace, and she knew that eventually he would not withhold it. How she needed his embrace now. Poor father. He had to be so desperately afraid for them now that they hadn’t come home before night, and he didn’t even know yet how precarious their situation was. Anne could picture their bodies lying on the moors; faces pale and cold; wind-borne strands of hair dancing merrily around their lifeless faces in a cruel contrast; their fingers entangled, as they had desperately held on to each other until the end. She imagined their bodies decaying in this abandoned, hostile land, perhaps never to be found. Anne felt a warm tear rolling down her cheek. She didn’t want to die like that. She pressed her lips together and wiped her nose with her sleeve so that Alice would not hear her sniff.

At some point they were forced to climb a low stone wall, and they decided to follow it, their hand on the stone surface to guide them, hoping that it would lead them to a farm. After a while they turned, and later they turned again, and turned and turned, until they realized they were going in circles. Discouraged, they climbed over the wall again and, having lost all sense of direction, they just walked on without aim, into a valley, up another hill, and on. They hoped that they weren’t going back into the no man’s land they had just come from.

Then came the rain, and Anne did not even try to hold back her tears. She felt the water soak through her woollen shawl and cotton dress until even her undergarments were moist against her skin, and her skirt clung cold and uncomfortably to her legs as she walked. Her soaked, woollen shawl was heavy on her tired body. She was shivering. And still they walked. They walked in the cold rain, until their clothes and hair seemed saturated, and their bodies were chilled to the bone, and their shoes and stockings covered in mud. And still they walked, for it was the only thing that kept them somewhat warm. Anne wondered who would collapse first.

“Anne!” came Alice’s voice all of a sudden. “Look!”

Anne had half closed her eyes against the rain. It was so dark that it made no difference. But now, for the first time in what felt like hours, she looked up, blinking a few times and trying to peer through the rain. And then she saw it, vaguely, hardly there, but there all the same: a light. They had moved to higher ground once again and she knew that the light was far away, though it was impossible to estimate the distance in the dark. But it was there. A faint glimmer of hope.

“Let’s try to move faster,” Anne said.

“Aye.”

Moving faster was hard. Their legs were trembling and their clothes heavy, while the ground was uneven and sometimes muddy beneath their feet. But they were moving. It was hard to tell whether the light was really coming closer and how far it still was. They had to believe that they had enough strength left to reach it. That it was not far anymore.

Suddenly, there was a shriek in front of her and some thuds which seemed to remove themselves from her rapidly. “Alice!” Anne shrieked in horror. She could not see anything in the dark, but she understood that her sister had fallen down some distance, and though her first instinct was to rush forward to find her, she stopped herself. “Alice!” she cried. No response. Her stomach twisted. “Alice!”

“Anne!”

Anne’s heart leaped and she took a deep breath to calm herself, thanking God. “Are you alright?”

“I hurt me arm and me foot! Watch out, Anne, there’s a drop!”

Anne knelt down and carefully crawled forward until she felt where the stony surface suddenly ended. Then she turned round, lay on her stomach and pushed her legs over the edge. “Watch out! I’m coming!”

“Don’t! You’ll hurt yerself!”

But Anne let herself slide down. There were a few bumps and sharp ridges, and she felt her the palms of her hands burn as they scraped over the ground. She tumbled the last bit, before landing on the cold ground with a thud.

“Are you okay?” she heard her sister’s voice.

“Aye,” Anne groaned, and she crawled in the direction of the voice, groping in front of her in the dark, until she felt her sister’s arm. “Are ye in much pain?”

“Don’t worry about me…”

“Can ye walk?”

There was silence from Alice’s side for a moment, and then a sniff and sobbing. “I can’t walk anymore Anne… I just can’t…”

Anne pressed her lips tight. While she had been crying and fearing for their lives before, hearing her sister cry actually strengthened her and made her forget her own worries and soreness. She had to protect Alice. She crawled up close against her sister and hugged her. Alice’s clothes were as soaked as her own. The rain was still beating down on them ruthlessly. She could feel Alice trembling in her arms. “It’s alright…” She rested her cheek against her sister’s wet shoulder. “Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll rest for a little while. Then we’ll move, alright?” But they could no longer see the light that had guided them before - a chilling realization.

“Oh, Anne. How did we end up here? Father… Elijah… They’ll be heartbroken… And poor little Bram…”

Anne refused to hear it. “Shush! We’re going to be okay and see them again before you know it. Rest for a moment, and don’t think about bad things. We’ll move on in a bit and find that light, I promise.”

They sat there, huddled against each other and trembling. Slowly the rain turned into a light drizzle, but it hardly made a difference. They were already soaked. Suddenly there was a bright flash of light in the distance, and then soft rumbling. The girls clung on to each other. Anne closed her eyes and prayed to wake up in their own bed. But when she opened her eyes, they were still here. As the sky lit up again, Anne saw that there was a pond some twenty feet ahead of them. She was thirsty, but she couldn’t even get herself to crawl over to the water. Instead, she wrung out her shawl above her mouth.

Though she was uncomfortably cold and sore, and shivering all over, she found herself sinking into a slumber, until the next thunder struck loudly, and she sat up straight, started. And then another flash, and the noise of thunder, following fast. It was coming closer.

“I suppose we’ll be here for a bit. Let’s keep ourselves small,” she said. Alice did not respond, and Anne realized that she was dozing through it all. Anne sat back and rested against her sister and soon found herself in a fast-paced cycle of dozing and waking several times.

She did not know how long they sat there. The rain stopped eventually. The thunder turned into occasional soft rumbling. Alice seemed to have fallen asleep against her shoulder.

“Alice.” Anne whispered, gently pushing against the other girl’s arm.

Alice sat up slowly. She gasped and her breathing was raspy. “It’s so cold,” she whispered.

Poor Alice. Anne understood now that her sister was malnourished and weakened, having eaten for one all this time, when she should have eaten for two. She could hear the chattering of the poor girl’s teeth. Anne wished that she could let her rest, but there was no choice. “We have to go on. We’ll freeze to death if we don’t keep movin’.”

But she felt Alice press her forehead against her shoulder. “I can’t! I can’t get up, Anne!”

“You have to try. We have to find that light again. Once we’ve reached there you can rest.”

Alice was quiet.

“Alice?”

“I can’t, Anne…” It was the sound of her voice that got to Anne. Not cryish and upset like earlier, but slow, resigned. “Oh, my dear Anne, forgive me…”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m so sorry for having dragged you into this. I… to die alone would have been one thing, but -,”

“Don’t you dare!” Anne reprimanded sharply. “You’re not goin’ to die. We’re gonna find a farm and ask for help and we’re gonna be alright.” And see home again. Surely father would forgive them after they had nearly died, and they would find a solution for the baby, and they would sleep in their own comfortable bed again, and have warm evenings with the family, and be home. Anne hardly felt herself sink away into slumber as she cherished the desperate fantasy.

“Anne…” Alice’s voice pulled her back, and Anne became aware of how her entire body was shaking. “Ye have to go on. Ye have to keep movin’. I shouldn’t ‘ave pulled ye into this. Move on and find shelter.”

But Anne clung on to her sister tightly, though it did little to warm either of them, cold as they were. “We’re goin’ together.”

“I can’t. I can’t walk any further. It don’t matter, Anne. My life was goin’ to be over either way. But you must go on! Please, my dear. If I just know you will live…”

“Don’t-,”

“Go!”

But Anne knew she could never leave her sister behind. “Rest a few more minutes.” she finally decided. “You’ll find your strength back. You’ll see.” Anne had to believe that.

This time, Alice did not argue, but rested her head on Anne’s and seemed to sleep instantly. Anne felt the urge to doze, but now she roused herself every time she felt it happen. They had to stay awake. They had to find shelter, or Alice would die.

They had to move now.

Just one more minute, she negotiated with herself. And after a while: One more, to give Alice strength, but then they had to move.

Some time had passed. She shivered with cold and felt numb at the same time. Just one more minute. Eyelids were heavy. She roused herself. She thought she did. She did not notice it when she sank into slumber, deeper slumber, sweet sleep. All was forgotten.
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Senior Member

266 Posts
11 Threads

Age: 15 (4 November 1879)
Occupation: Fisherman's daughter
Registered: Sep 2019

#6
[Content warning: drowning; gritty portrayal of domestic violence/abuse]


She was standing on the beach, west of Whitby, towards Sandsend. In the distance, she could see people flocking together to look at something that was hidden from her view. Some children tried to come close, but adults chased them away or carried them off. There was an eerie silence, apart from the waves rolling in. And then one sound rose from the crowd: a low, wailing sound she had never heard before and that made her hairs stand up.

Anne felt nauseous, for she had been here before and knew what those people were looking at. But now she remembered that she had not heard about her poor brother for so many anxious days, and she began to run towards the crowd. The people weren’t packed tightly, and Anne easily slipped in between them. Then she stopped all of a sudden, for she caught sight of father. He was on his knees, bent over, hands clutching sand, his face contorted, and his shoulders shaking. She realized that the wailing noise came from him, and it frightened her. Some fishermen crouched down and tried to help him up, but he shook his head and threw himself down again. Anne could just see a swollen hand in front of him, but the rest was hidden from view by the people in front of her. She wanted to go to her father and comfort him. She wanted to see Tom. But she was afraid.

Then she saw Simon, on the other end, sitting in the sand, his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. But he didn’t make that noise that frightened her so, and so she made her way over to him for comfort. Then the thing that lay in between him and father came into view and she stopped and gasped.

Suddenly she felt someone take her by the arm, and she looked up to see one of the fisher women from their yard. “Don’t look, child,” she said in a raspy voice. The woman pulled her back into the crowd, away from there. Anne glanced back just in time to see two men lay a white sheet over something that wasn’t her brother.

The beach and people faded, and she was now in their cottage, in the bed in the main room where she used to sleep with her sisters. She was sitting up, huddled together with Rose and Alice, the three girls clinging on to one another. She was trembling. The room was dimly lit by a single flickering candle on the table. Beside it lay the pouch with the money Anne had found among Simon’s things. If only she had held her tongue.

In front of them, father and Simon were standing, facing each other like two dark shadows. There was a belt in father’s hand. He wore a grim expression and his nostrils flared in a way that made her shudder.

“On your knees, I said!”

Simon’s eyes were straight on his father with an almost unnatural concentration. His mouth was slightly open, and he stood very still, like a deer that sensed danger. For what seemed like forever, they just stood there, staring at each other.

“Down!”

It was Simon, at last, who broke eye contact first, and Anne knew what was coming. Without looking at father or his sisters, he unbuttoned his waistcoat and hung it over a chair. Then he knelt and pulled his shirt over his head, gripping it tight on his wrists as if to brace himself. When father raised his hand to strike, Rose pulled the blanket over her and her sisters and they shrunk against each other in the dark when a sharp noise cracked through the room. They couldn’t save him.

And once again, the scene faded. She was on the beach again. There was a small coble in the water, just off the beach, in which Alice sat up straight, wearing a white gown, her face almost as pale as the gown. She was staring at the beach, but her eyes were glassy. The boat was floating away from the beach slowly, into deeper waters. Anne turned to look for help and saw her father, Maggie, Rose, Will, and Bram all standing on the beach, watching silently, but nobody was trying to stop the coble from drifting away.

“Father, do something!” she screamed. But he just stood there, watching silently. “Maggie! Rose!” Nobody stirred. “Help!” No response.

Anne turned again and ran into the water, but something seemed to slow her down, as if she had to fight against some strong wind that was trying to push her back. The boat, meanwhile, drifted further out to sea, moving up and down on the waves. She watched Alice lay back.

Anne tossed off her shawl and waded into deeper waters, until she was forced to swim. She swam with all her strength, trying to reach the boat, but it was still removing itself from her and she couldn’t swim faster. The water was cold and deep, and it frightened her. She turned to look back to the beach and her family. Some part of her wanted to go back to them, to safety. But no one was helping Alice, and Anne was terrified of what would happen when the little boat met the bar - or, if it would survive that, of the boat drifting off to open sea. She cast one last desperate look to shore. Then she turned and swam to deeper water to save her sister. Still the boat seemed ever out of reach. “Alice!” she screamed, but water ran into her mouth, and she coughed and gasped for air.
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Senior Member

266 Posts
11 Threads

Age: 15 (4 November 1879)
Occupation: Fisherman's daughter
Registered: Sep 2019

#7
The water was all around her. Over her. She couldn’t breathe. She was drowning. She sat up with a jolt. “Alice!” Everything around her was pitch black and for a moment Anne wondered if she had her eyes closed. Her clothes were wet, and she was colder than she had ever been. And instantly she remembered where she was.

“Alice?” she whispered to her sister. Alice did not respond. Anne shook her gently. “Alice, wake up. Let’s move on.” But there was no response. “Alice. Alice, wake up.” She shook her sister harder. But Alice did not wake. Anne held her breath. Her fingers found her sisters throat. There was a low pulse, but the skin was cold; colder than Anne’s fingers. Anne felt her stomach drop. “Alice! Alice! Please!” She shook her sister desperately.

The tiniest moan rose from her sister’s lips and Anne inhaled sharply.

“Alice, we must go. We must move. You need to get warm!” But again, there was no response, and when Anne shook her sister again, Alice did not respond. “No. No. No. No.” Anne whimpered. She looked around for help. But there was nothing but the cruel darkness.

She was wild with panic and began to cry frantically. Alice was going to die. She couldn’t see a thing. She didn’t know where they were. They were all alone. And Alice was dying.

“Help!” she wailed, desperately believing for a moment that someone would hear her and come to their aid. “Help! Please! Please!” But no help came. “Please!” she shrieked. She curled up. Uncontrolled, high-pitched noises rose from her throat, interrupted by desperate gasps for air. She could not calm herself.

But at last she managed to steady her breathing and her mind cleared a little. There was only one option. It seemed like an impossibility. She would have to leave Alice here, and try to find help in the complete darkness in some miraculous way. But how could she possibly leave her sister behind in this state? What if Alice died in her absence, all alone in this horrid place? If she stayed, perhaps she could keep her sister warm just a little longer, keep her with her just a little longer, make the end just a little more bearable.

But she knew what she had to do. She got up, sobbing, gasping, praying. But she got up. Desperate to keep her sister as warm as she could – but not thinking clearly - she took off her shawl and dress. The latter came off with great difficulty, since the wet fabric was sticky and inelastic. Her corset was heavy with water, and she tossed it down. Then she knelt by Alice’s side and covered her sister with the dress and shawl, hoping it would keep her warm, rather than make her colder.

“Oh Alice, forgive me.” Alice did not respond, and Anne tried not to think of how this might be the last time she would see her alive. She kissed her sister. “Forgive me.” She whispered again.

Then she took a deep breath, rose, and ran off into the dark night.
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Senior Member

266 Posts
11 Threads

Age: 15 (4 November 1879)
Occupation: Fisherman's daughter
Registered: Sep 2019

#8
She didn’t know exactly where she was going. She couldn’t go straight ahead, for there was the pond, but went somewhat to the left, still trying to go as straight as possible in the hope that she might find that light again.

Her mind was wild with fear and it was hard to think clearly. She was hardly aware of her surroundings, or how sore and cold she was. Everything still felt like a dream, and momentarily, she imagined herself back in the water, swimming to save her sister. And she just couldn’t reach her. She couldn’t save Alice. And there was no help. All experiences and memories merged into one another, none of them quite clear, except for that over-powering awareness that her sister was going to die.

She tripped repeatedly, but every time she would scramble to her feet and continue to run, hardly feeling the pain and not caring about it anyway. She panted and grasped as she ran. But she ran, for longer than she thought she could. There was one thing on her mind now. “Help!” she screamed into the malevolent darkness, her voice breaking. There was no response, not a sound, but for something rustling in the heather. There might be no one to help them for miles and miles. But she had to move on and try, for it was the only thing she could do. Anne wouldn’t even know how to get back to her sister. She had lost all sense of direction.

There was no one. There was no help. She was alone. She tripped once more. Her spent body hit the ground hard.

She gave up.

Lying there on the cold earth, she clenched her fists and began to wail. She couldn’t save Alice. Her sister was going to freeze to death. And now Anne wasn’t even there to support her and comfort her and hold her tight in her last moment. Her sister was going to die all alone, like Simon, like Tom. And she was here, stuck in the dark, lost. Why was no one there to help? Or even just to comfort her? Her wailing turned into high pitched muffled sounds, as she struggled to breathe. Save us. Save us. Save Alice. Poor Alice. She wanted to scream out for her sister. But the screams got trapped in her throat.

Yet eventually, she climbed up to her feet, and though she had no strength left to run, she walked up the next hill numbly because she had to feel like she was doing something for her sister.

She barely watched where she was going, but when she reached the top of the hill, the light was there, right ahead of her, and clear enough for her to be able to tell that it was a lantern, hanging beside the door of a farm house. Anne stared at it with open mouth, hesitant for a moment, for she hardly dared to believe it was there. Then she ran downhill towards it, hope reviving her.

“Help! Help! Help my sister!” she shouted as she ran through the gate and approached the house, able to see more of it now that she came closer to the circle of light. She had nearly reached the door, when she heard loud barking, and two dogs came round the house and sped towards her. Anne shrieked and took a few hurried steps back, but she fell and screamed. The dogs were by her side, barking and growling, though they did not attack. Anne covered her face with her arms, howling in fear, but she couldn’t move.

Then suddenly, there was a man’s voice. “Down! DOWN!”

One of the dogs growled once more, but then they left her alone. Anne looked up. There was a tall, red-bearded man standing above her. He was in night clothes, but carried a hunting gun in his hands. He lowered it when he got a proper look at her.

“What in the…”
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